With many major relay gold medals to her name, Natasha Hastings also eyes individual success and Stuart Weir profiles the American sprinter ahead of the Shanghai Diamond League

When Natasha Hastings set the USA on the way to victory in the 4x400m relay at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland earlier this year, it was incredibly her eleventh major relay medal. But when she goes in the 400m in the Shanghai Diamond League on Saturday, it is individual success that is her goal.

In individual races the 29-year-old has won two previous Diamond League 400m races and picked up a bronze in the 2012 World Indoor Championships as well as gold and two bronzes at the US Championships. The year 2013 was probably her best when she won the US 400m outdoor title in 49.94 and the Brussels Diamond League before a fifth in the 2013 World Championships.

She told me: “I certainly feel blessed to be part of what I would call an American legacy in relays, but it is an individual sport and I would love to have some individual medals to add to my collection.”

Hastings won the individual 400m in the World Youth Championships in 2003, the World Junior Championships in 2004 and the Pan Am Juniors in 2005, but has had her major senior successes in the relays, winning medals at all World Championships from 2007 to 2015 (three gold and two silvers), plus three world indoor golds and two silvers, an Olympic gold and two golds at the IAAF World Relays.

She is a flexible relay runner with no preference as to which leg she runs.

“It doesn’t really bother me,” she has said. “Wherever you put me, I will run.

“I have run everything from first to last. So wherever you need me, wherever you think I fit best, I’ll be a team player.”

“I certainly feel blessed to be part of what I would call an American legacy in relays, but it is an individual sport and I would love to have some individual medals to add to my collection”

Hastings started running when she was nine. “Both my parents were in track so it was something I grew up around,” she explained. “I was raised in New York and my mom used to take me to the Colgate Women’s Games in Brooklyn and the then club coach, Sean London, felt I had potential and got me started. I was running internationally at 15 or 16.”

Incidentally, her mother is British and Hastings thinks she might still hold some Crystal Palace meet records.

Aside from athletics, another of Hastings’ passions is hair and makeup. She is a brand ambassador and often tweets about beauty. A recent Facebook post shows her on the catwalk at the Austin Fashion Week.

The sprinter did a tasteful nude photo shoot for the ESPN ‘Body Issue’, but only after getting her family’s approval and checking that USA Track & Field and the United States Olympic Committee were happy with it.

“ESPN contacted my publicist and my publicist called me to say, ‘hey they are interested in you’. It was something that initially I was excited about but as I got over the excitement I thought about the men in my life and people who look up to me,” she said. “It was a tough decision, but I thought ESPN had a great history of doing the magazine tastefully. My pictures came out tasteful and something I was proud of. It was a good experience for me.”

“Don’t let society tell you what is beautiful. You create your beauty. God made you the way you are for a reason so embrace it!”

She added: “For me, it was a celebration of the athlete’s body. It was a way of showing how we come in many different shapes and sizes, and a way of showing the hard work that we put in every day.

“Don’t let society tell you what is beautiful. You create your beauty. God made you the way you are for a reason so embrace it!”

While Hastings is known as a 400m runner – with a PB of 49.84 set in 2007 – her other sprint PBs are very respectable, with 7.26 for 60m, 11.24 for 100m and 22.57 for 200m.

This is no coincidence. She said: “I have noticed over the years that the better I am in the shorter distances, the better my 400m is.” As a result, she likes to run 60m and 200m indoors “to focus more on speed” but more with the aim of helping her outdoor 400m racing than the actual sprint itself.

While Hastings seems to have been running forever, she is still only 29 and could well have a few more good years and podiums ahead of her.